Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is the most revered of all sacred medicinal plants in India. In traditional medicine, it is cherished for its holistic healing properties to restore healthy living by warding off imbalances in the body and mind. In Indian herbal medicine, it is used as a remedy for bronchitis, gastric disorders, hepatic disorders, and skin diseases. Tulsi is also considered to be a diaphoretic, an antiperiodic, an anthelmintic, a cardiotonic, and an antipyretic as well as a blood purifier and an anti-inflammatory.166
In the only human clinical study reported to date, tulsi significantly reduced the fasting and postprondrial sugar levels during treatment.167 Modern scientific research on tulsi has demonstrated some impressive findings that could have potential application for use in cancer prevention and cure. Ocimum sanctum was reported to be adaptogenic in rats and mice. Oral administration of Ocimum sanctum extract significantly prevented chemically induced carcinogenesis in Swiss albino mice and also in hamster buccal pouch model.168'169 The chemopreventive efficacy of Ocimum sanctum oil at 100^g/kg against 20-methylcholanthrene-induced fibrosarcoma in mice was comparable with that of 80mg/kg of vitamin E.170
Ocimum sanctum has also been shown to play a potential role in the management of immunological disorders, including allergies and asthma.171 Its ethanolic extract induced cytotoxicity at 50^g/ml against fibrosarcoma cells in cultures and mediated a significant shrinkage of tumor volume in mice bearing Sarcoma 180 solid tumors, extending their life span. 172 Recent literature also attributes potential for the use of tulsi in combination with radiation therapy. The leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum affords in vivo protection against cytogenetic damage by restoring the radiation-induced depletion of glutathione transferase and other enzymes to their normal levels.173 Further studies have indicated that two flavonoids, orientin and vicenin isolated from the extract, demonstrated significant protection to the human lymphocytes in cultures against radiation lethality and also provided in vivo protection against death from radiation-induced gastrointestinal syndrome.174 The Ocimum sanctum extract and the pure flavonoids were also found to be excellent protectors of bone marrow against radiation-induced clastogenesis and stem cell lethality in the mouse at a low nontoxic dose.175 The radiation protection, which was comparable or even better than the known synthetic radioprotectors like WR-2721, was further enhanced in combination therapy.176
Ursolic acid, a triterpene constituent of Ocimum sanctum, protected the rat liver microsomes in vitro against free-radical-induced lipid peroxidation.177 In animal studies, ursolic acid exhibited remarkable inhibitory activity against tumor promotion.178 Topical cosmetic preparations containing ursolic acid and its isomer oleanolic acid are proprietary products in Japan, and both products are reported to be useful in skin cancer therapy.179 The foregoing data open a tremendous possibility that Ocimum sanctum or its constituents may hold promise as adjuncts to human radiation therapy.
The items covered in the foregoing discussion are only a few of the widely known natural supplements with potential anticancer and chemopreventive properties. There are a large number of other phytochemicals and plant extracts reported to possess potential activities. Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), and shark cartilage are some examples suggested for cancer cure; and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and silymarin from milk thistle (Silybum marianum) are some examples known for cancer prevention properties.
Was this article helpful?